When Night and Day magazine brightened British bookstalls
Night and Day, edited by Christopher Hawtree. Introduction by Christopher Hawtree, preface by Graham Greene. Topsfield, Mass.: Salem House Publishers and Merrimack Publishers' Circle. 288 pp. $22.95. Nearly 50 years ago, British bookstalls were brightened day and night by Night and Day. Starting publication in July of 1937, this weekly magazine, designed along the lines of The New Yorker, lasted for six months. Its short life is now celebrated with a handsome volume.Skip to next paragraph
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Night and Day deserves this. The artists and writers were mined from the rich lode of London cultural life during those not-so-innocent days of the suspenseful lull between the wars.
Night and Day advised, in ``The Snobs Guide,'' that kippers were poor form at breakfast, while after midnight, delightfully sophisticated. Shepherd's pie, alas, was always bad form, while lemons were acceptable at any meal. Attendance at the Royal Academy was all right, as long as one was careful to sneer at all the pictures. It was also all right to drop the name of Picasso in conversation, and Night and Day helpfully revealed that Joan Mir'o was a man: ``The name Joan is only a trap.'' Flying was fashionable, hiking horrible. If you must read, read Americans. Don't, however, enthuse too much over Hemingway; the critics were just beginning to criticize him. All Russian films were marvelous, one might enjoy a bit of Hitchcock, but beware of Cecil B. de Mille. Everyone loved Rogers and Astaire.
Graham Greene and John Marks edited such lights as Alistair Cooke, familiar today as the host of ``Masterpiece Theatre.'' For Night and Day, he wrote a ``New York Letter.'' The Americans had won the America's Cup, while Ernest Hemingway had had a fight with Max Eastman in a publisher's office, of all places. Mr. Eastman had written an article that questioned the amount of hair on Mr. Hemingway's chest. An even hotter item was how awfully tired film star Robert Taylor was becoming of being called ``beautiful.''
Malcolm Muggeridge took literary pilgrimages. He traced Samuel Butler's footsteps along Handel Street in Bloomsbury. Seems Sam had a lady friend there. And he visited the Davidson Road School where D.H. Lawrence taught. During Lawrence's five years there he managed to paint on Sunday mornings with his landlord and write ``Sons and Lovers'' and ``The White Peacock.'' Mr. Muggeridge also reported on the then-new commemorative plaques that tourists and students appreciate to this day. They cost 10 (a pound is today $1.50) to buy and put up. One, ``at 41 Maitland Park Road, [was] to Karl Marx. This plaque, however, rapidly became a focus of disorder and was, at the request of the owner of the property concerned, removed....'' Mozart was not yet plaqued in Ebury Street.
In the book department, Evelyn Waugh complained that ``the literary mind is a rat on a treadwheel; too many modern poetic writers employ a language which can be intelligible only to themselves....'' And Elizabeth Bowen, covering theater, thought Judith Anderson a fine Lady Macbeth, Gielgud's Hamlet all mannerisms, Olivier's all fugue. ``As for Mr. Olivier, he has that gift, above price for a Shakespeare actor, of speaking every majestic, well-known line as though it sprang, only now, direct from his own heart.''
Films were covered by Graham Greene. ``The Movie'' vs. ``The Cinema,'' was the criterion. Hollywood was discussed, and he despaired of Bette Davis's talent. He also got into trouble with a review of a Shirley Temple film. The lawsuit that followed cost Night and Day 35,000.
The cartoons were stylish, some decorative, some illustrative and detailed, most of them still funny. Two of the artists, Nicolas Bentley and Feliks Topolski, have had outstanding careers. The adverts, as they say in Britain, speak for themselves!